Monday, 7 December 2015
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Two FBI agents walk into a bar. You know the sort, tall, handsome, look as if they could quite easily be played by Tom Hanks when they get to middle age. The guy on the right, he's wearing Stars and Stripes underwear. They're patriotic, they're proud. They're Americans.
One of them looks you straight in the face, and he says, "The following blog post should be entertaining, however it may in some ways be offensive to vegetarians. I would highly recommend you avoid it if you have strong feelings about not eating meat."
The other FBI agent nods, flashes the gun on his side as he moves away his black blazer so he can put his hand in his trouser pocket. "I agree with my buddy here. It may be slightly offensive indeed."
The FBI agents give you a moment to walk out, their eyes, hidden behind sunglasses, following you as you do. As soon as you're out, they turn back to the bar and say to the bartender. "Okay, pal. Let's experience this goddamn story."
The bar tender, a tall but no so handsome English lad, says, "I'm not actually twenty one yet. Should I really be allowed to work here?"
The FBI agents shrug. "Do we look like we care?"
The English lad shrugs back. "Okay. Let's do this. Are you sitting comfortably?"
"Then let the story begin..."
An empty burger bun. It sits still on a worktop. Sesame seed on top, dazzling in the cleansed light of the electric panels above. It's delicious, Perfect, even, like it’s straight out of an advert. Elsewhere, there's a pan on a hob, a burger on top of that. Beautiful. It sits in the centre, frying. Grease sizzles. Simmering like a puddle in the middle of the desert. Perfect. There's also a piece of cheese. Emmental. Beautiful. Perfect. It looks as if it's gone ten paces with a machine gun, the amount of holes it's got in it. It's delicious nonetheless. It’s as if we're in a Burger King advert.
There's a tray of salad and stuff, ready to be put on. The tomatoes are juicy, the lettuce is crisp. The onions are diced, the gherkins are ready to woo some women. As we all know; a gherkin is the way to a girl's heart. A fast-food server steps forwards. A minty green uniform is above their pale white flesh, protective gloves give their hands a blue sheen. There’s a heavenly glow around them. They reach forwards. Their protective gloves wrinkle as they open the bun, put the burger on the bread, add the cheese which instantly begins to sizzle, the salad, the sauce in wild zig zags of helter-skelter squirting. They close the bun again. It slides perfectly onto a plate. The plate is picked up and placed onto a tray held by a similarly uniformed waiter. The man, lanky and blonde, takes the tray and spins around, walking forwards. Out of the kitchen and onwards. Through the restaurant, around the plastic coated furniture and the ever frothing drink machine. The waiter’s face is about two feet above this. He gives us an omniscient, all knowing smile, as if he knows we’re currently imagining this story. He rounds a corner, ducking under the trail of an abandoned balloon. In front of him goes the source of the balloon. Old Fred. Poor old Fred. He was the restaurant clown, a frail old man who was so naturally pale that he needn’t wear makeup. The grapevine had it that Fred had been pushing his little trolley of balloons and tricks around, a grimace glummer than a depressed donkey on his face, for as long as anybody could remember. Poor old Fred. Old Fred’s eyes, hidden behind arcs of his bulbous red nose, noticed the waiter and suckered out of his way. With a nod of thanks, the waiter continued his dangerous pilgrimage of meat and ketchup.
With a definitive thud, the tray was placed on a table. It sat on the table, pristine, perfect, almost smoking, in front of a striped jumper. Protruding from the jumper is the head of the owner. Billy. He’s staring down at the burger, satisfied, happy. A smile bigger than anything Fred could ever hope to smile grew across his face. Billy loved burgers.
He had eaten his first burger at the age of ten. It had been for his tenth birthday party. He could still smell the smoke which came out of the sparkler on top. He remembered when he took his first bite. He had been worried he would not fit it all into his mouth. He was glad he could, however, because it was the greatest sensation he had ever experienced. So many bold explosions of varying flavours, so many atomic reactions of complete and utter joy. His mouth had drooled and so had his eyes as he wept with the ecstasy of what he had consumed. Complete and utter ecstasy.
As Billy returned to work that afternoon, reminiscing about the first burger he’d ever eaten, the taste was still ripe in his mouth. He licked his fingers, relishing the salt of the fries and the grease of the bread. His tongue unrooted a bit of cheese and sesame seed stuck between his teeth and another bolt of flavour cut through him. Lovely.
Paul, the receptionist, smiled at him. He was just about to say, “Good afternoon, Bill. Another good burger?” when his brow furrowed. “You feeling okay?” He asked, instead.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I? Just had an orgasmic burger!”
“You’re looking a bit peaky, is all.” Paul said. His words were the truth. A bit of the colour had drained out of his face, turning his flesh a few shades whiter. “Bit Michael Jackson.”
“That might be because I am one hell of smooth criminal.” Billy said, attempting to moon walk and failing. He nearly tripped over in the process. “I mean, I did just have an amazing burger!”
“I think you should go see a doctor.” Paul said.
“Right, just ignore the fact I had a wonderful lunch then.” Billy said.
“You have a burger every day of the week! Twice on Fridays! Today is no different to any other day! Why would I care?”
Billy’s face drooped. “You don’t mean that do you?”
The receptionist, who realised that he may have hurt his friend’s feelings, quickly retracted his statement. “Of course I didn’t. You can tell me all about it after work.”
Billy’s smile returned. “Yay! Thank you!”
Paul smiled. “You better get going to work now, Billy.”
Billy nodded and scampered off.
The floor he arrived on was long and narrow, with several clusters of desks arranged in shapes that weren’t allowed to be described as swastikas, for PR reasons. He took his seat and turned on his computer, looking over it as it began to run it’s boot sequence. The sight he saw was called Patricia, Patty for short. She wore a summery dress despite it being winter and had a large afro veering away from her head like she was lying next to a Van der Graaf generator. Billy loved her almost as much as he loved burgers. There was only one problem. Just like burgers, she had no idea but not because she was an inanimate object. No, the reason she didn’t know he loved her was because she was so far out of his league that he would have been surprised she knew he existed.
Patty was athletic and intelligent, muscular and fast. Billy was tall, scrawny, thin despite his highly unhealthy eating habits and about as simple as they come. The only thing giving him hope that they might one day get together was the words of his old science teacher. “Opposites attract.”
“One day.” He whispered to himself, running a hand through his gingery hair. “One day.”
The next day, Billy drove into work. He hadn’t done so since before the summer holidays, but now the weather had got to a point where he couldn’t stand walking through the cold. He drove down the ramp into the car park, pulling to a stop in the underground car storage area. Strip lighting illuminated the shining floor, black tyre marks painting the white paint lines that separated each parking spot. He cursed under his breath. All the spots were full.
He reversed back up the ramp, turning the car around with an awkward twist of the steering wheel. He pondered whether there was a street within walking distance that he could park in, but before he even had to consider it he had his solution. Across the road was the squat form of his favourite fast-food restaurant. “Beautiful.” He said to himself, and drove over towards it. There was a sign post next to the entrance, holding a large illustration of the company logo. It was a grinning clown called Burt Ger. He had a wide grin across his brightly white face, a bulbous red nose in the centre. An afro of bright red spilt away from his head and a burger was being held in his hand. The sight of the burger made Billy’s stomach growl. He pulled into a vacant parking spot and then checked his watch. “I have time.” He said to himself, then climbed out of his car and hurried across to the doors of the restaurant.
The heater above the inside doorway blasted him with warm air, and a few seconds later the smell got to him and made him grin immensely. He ran across to the counter, passing old Fred who looked up to him miserably. The woman behind the counter smiled and said, “Hello there, Billy. What can I get you this time of morning?”
“My usual, please.” He said, grinning. “I’m quite hungry.”
“Go get your seat, someone’ll bring it over.” She smiled.
Billy did so and went to sit down, getting ready for the incredibility of the food he was about to experience. Old Fred looked on, omniscient, disappointed. Poor, poor lad, the old clown thought.
Twenty minutes later, Billy walked into the reception with a gigantic grin across his face. Paul looked up and the grin said everything. “I was wondering why you were late. Been across the road, have you?”
“I couldn’t help myself.” Billy said. “It was just so delicious.”
“Well, you better get up to the office unless you want to be in even more trouble.” Billy turned to do so, but Paul hailed him back. “Have you been to see the doctor yet?”
“You look like you’ve got a cold. Your nose is all red.”
Billy peered in the reflective metal of the counter. Paul was right. His face was pale and his nose was strangely red. “I hate winter.”
Upstairs, the meeting had finished. Everyone had returned to their desks. Billy sheepishly slid into his seat, flicked on his computer and began to fill out forms. He straightened the toy Tardis to the left of his keyboard and smiled to himself. There’d been a police box outside the first branch of fast-food restaurants he’d gone to.
“Where were you this morning?” Said the provocative, attractive Jamaican tones of a woman sat directly in front of him. Billy looked up. Some colour lit through his pale cheeks, as he blushed a deep red.
“Uh…” He began to say, slightly awe-struck. “I, uh…”
“You were at that burger joint of your’s?” She said. “I saw you through the window. I don’t know how you aren’t so fat you can’t fit through the doors.”
Billy didn’t know how to answer, but a bit of him was honoured that she didn’t think he was fat.
“I inherited a sense of work, this work, from my parents. I suggest you adopt it too.”
“A fast metabolism.” Billy managed to say.
“A fast metabolism. I, uh, I inherited it from my parents. Hence why I’m not so fat I can’t fit through doors.”
She laughed a little. “No punctuality but plenty of wit. I see why Mr Jones,” which happened to be the terrifying name of the boss, “hasn’t fired you yet.”
“I won’t be late again.” He said. “I’m sorry.”
She laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Just stick to your problem. And, for God’s sake, do something about your nose. You’re out doing Rudolph!”
Billy grinned to himself and continued typing. He opened the Microsoft Office folder and clicked the link entitled ‘OneNote.’
“Where are your flowers?” Robert asked. Robert, or Bob to his friends, was tall and striking, with the type of jawline that looked as if had just jumped out of a movie. Even trivial things like breathing were cool, bordering on thrilling, when Robert was doing it. When Billy breathed, it was unnoticeable.
“Oh, they wilted.” Patty said.
“I’ll have to get you some new ones. Put a bit of a shine back in your eye.”
Billy contemplated leaping up and punching him, cursing him for daring to be so rude to such a perfect woman. He considered sliding his knuckles straight into his perfect jawbones and trying to turn them to dust. After a few seconds of silent seething, he decided not to do anything. Actions may speak louder than words, but silence is better than punching a bloke in the face.
The next day, Billy pulled his car to a stop and cried, at the top of his voice, “Double whammy!”
His mission had been to find a petrol station where he may be able to buy some flowers for Patty. What he hadn’t reckoned would happen was that the petrol station would have an attached branch of Burt Ger’s. The eponymous clown stared down from his place on the sign, grinning his omniscient grin down on Billy as he ran in. He ordered his usual, but in the first time in quite a few years had to explain his order to the girl behind the counter.
“We’ll bring it straight over.” She said.
“I just need to get some flowers but I’ll be back just after.”
“No problem, darl.” She said.
He rushed towards the door, stopping to let an old clown push a trolley in front. His hair spiralled away from his head in a red afro, his nose was plump and red, his skin was a ghastly white. He had a sad look in his eyes, as if he was brimming with regret.
He moved out of the way to allow the clown to pass and then went out of the door. He walked around towards the petrol station, went in and had a look at the flowers by the counter. There were some purple ones that were similar to those she had previously, so he paid for them and then returned to Burt Ger’s. In the air was a beautiful scent, a heavenly smell that made his mouth water and a smile dance across his face.
Once more, Billy remembered that he loved burgers.
He reached work just after work began, and rushed up the stairs without even trading the mildest word with Paul. He got to his office, flicked on his computer and threw himself into his seat. Underneath the desk, he fiddled with the bag he’d put the flowers in and tried to pull them out.
Patty looked over at him. “What was that about never being late for work again?” She asked. “And wiped the ketchup off your lips, please.”
He whipped the flowers from under the table and presented them to you. Her face lit with an incredible smile. “Billy! That’s so-“
Before she could finish her sentence, the petals of the flower opened up and released a power explosion of water. It shot forwards, like it was sliding out of a hose, and coated her face with a sheen of liquid. The water ran down her face and dampened her blouse. The fringe of her afro stopped being so fluffy.
She looked very, very angry.
Billy’s eyes fell back down towards the flowers. They were normal flowers, as if they’d been plucked straight from a garden. There was no hose connected to them. Where had the water come from?
To say he felt scared of the anger coursing through her was a slight understatement.
To be concluded...